My young son’s frankness is born of childish innocence. There’s no malice in it. But it still leaves me gasping for breath sometimes.
In the middle of a conversation with family about who’s having babies and the sizes of families we know, he climbs on my lap, gently pats my stomach, and says “I think you’re done, mama”. Since babies are all around us, but we don’t have one now, that must mean there are none for us ever again, to his mind.
He occasionally asks about “that baby that you had that died”. When he learned that we’d lost two babies, he said “Huh. I’m glad you didn’t tell me about that second one when it happened because that’s doubly sad. That’s just doubly sad, isn’t it, when you lose two?”
He used his 7 year old math skills to calculate: “So if those two babies hadn’t been lost, there would be five of us?” He holds up five fingers.
Yes, five. But there are only three. And I want to put my head down on the dinner table and weep when he says these things. But I don’t.
I didn’t mark the date of my first miscarriage. It was sometime in April. At the end of the month I realized a year had gone by since that horrible, painful, bloody Sunday morning in spring. And May held the due date for the second baby we lost. These dates didn’t haunt me all year, not really. But suddenly spring arrived and life decided to mock me and bludgeon me with the losses.
My son’s comments increased. My youngest child turned three–and absolutely refused to be called “baby” anymore. A neighbor asked “So when are you due?” and when I told him I wasn’t, he said some insipid cliche along the lines of “Well, everything happens for a reason. And you have three healthy boys.” I didn’t wring his neck. I wanted to. My sister’s due-date began to approach rapidly and so life is all about babies and spring and new life and Happy!!! That’s all good. I don’t begrudge anyone their happiness.
But it’s harder than I thought. I’ve developed an appreciation of Stoicism over the years, and gotten pretty good at playing the stoic. It’s safe. It’s more comfortable for me than being an emotional wreck. The loss though, it’s still there. It still hurts. A lot. With each one, I didn’t just lose a child but a whole personality, a lifetime, hopes and dreams and wishes and prayers invested in the babies that I carried for such a short time. The physical pain I endured was minor and brief compared to the wound that was created in my heart. I can’t help but wonder about the kinds of people those two would have been. I can’t help but imagine the cappuccino-colored skin they would have had, and the curly brown hair, and the deep, dark brown eyes. I wonder what would be different if there were more children filling the house. I wonder what thundering tantrums they might have thrown, what brilliant things they might have said, what they would have done to make their father smile and tickle them and adore them.
How strange that just the thought of those tiny someones whom I will never see in this lifetime, and who I only knew for a few weeks can bring me up short, take the words from my mouth, make my eyes well up with tears. How odd to be a person who can take so many other things in stride, without a fuss, and find myself fraying at the seams over something I didn’t cause, couldn’t fix, and cannot change. Stranger still, I think now that I want to keep those painful ragged edges. It would be easier not to hurt, but I don’t next April to roll around and find me calloused and forgetful.
My babies, my tiny, unknown babies, deserve to be remembered, no matter how it hurts me.